Must-Have Used Car Documents

As posted on April 30, 2014 on

By Dana Fowle

ATLANTA - When you shop for a used car the top of your list is likely getting a good car at a good price.  But, the deal is no good if you don't walk away with all of the right paperwork.  

The I-Team has taken so many calls over the years from viewers who've run into problems with their used car but are stuck because they don't have all of their paperwork -- like the bill of sale. Seems pretty basic, but don't walk off without it.  That's your proof of sale.

If you get into a finance agreement, the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection says state law requires the finance agreement be in writing.  Make sure you sign a document that's been filled out completely. No blank spaces with the seller saying, "Oh, I'll fill that in later." That's a big no-no.

The law also says clearly that the seller - a dealer or an individual seller - needs to fill out an odometer mileage disclosure form. The Federal Trade Commission says a dealer - someone who sells more than six cars a year - must hand you a Buyers Guide - something that's chockfull of important car buying information.  

And, the Certificate of Title.  This is a very big deal. This is the paperwork of record that establishes who owns that automobile.
The head of the state's consumer protection office says if any of these documents are missing, consider it a red flag.  

"Reputable dealers will furnish those as a matter of course.  Their people are trained to do that.  But, if you're buying from someone who is sketchy, you've got to be very careful," says John Sours, the head of the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection.

He adds, if a car salesman hands you the keys, without handing over some of these important documents, you need to think very hard about whether this is where you want to spend your money.   

In the heat of negotiations, it's easy to forget some of this, so print off this pocket list to put into your wallet.  Carry it with you.

And a quick reminder: Before you buy get a vehicle history report. That is money well spent.


Print and put in your wallet.

1. Bill of Sale: This is your proof of sale.

2. Finance Agreement: Must be in writing. Leave no blank spaces

3. Odometer Mileage Disclosure Form

4. Certificate of Title: Establishes ownership.

5. Buyers Guide: FTC requires this.